Quotables: Skip Holtz

GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina University Head Football Coach Skip Holtz addressed members of the media prior to this week's game against UTEP.

Opening Comments:
"It was a great win for the program and the players. It was nice to be back at home with our crowd and student body. I thought the crowd, the atmosphere and enthusiasm were a huge plus. I thought the team fed off of the crowd in the third quarter and it was a real boost for the team. This team continues to impress me because they work hard, show great attitude and do not give up. They have been through a long road the past six weeks but they continue to roll up their sleeves, compete and answer each challenge. We challenged a number of players individually at the half and they stepped up and did a really nice job. This team is still a long way from being a complete football team. We have been extremely opportunistic, especially in last couple of weeks. We haven't put together many long drives with the football or even stopped people on a regular basis but the defense has done a great job of creating some turnovers and positive field position for the offense. In turn, the offense has done a nice job of converting those turnovers into points. I believe that four of the turnovers resulted in 24 points on Saturday.

"We had some breakdowns on the punt and kickoff teams. [UCF's touchdown on the opening kick] was not the way we wanted to start the game. We knew that [UCF] runs the ball well so we wanted to come out and score some points early to get them out of their game but 10 seconds into the game, that plan was out the window. Our kickoff return team is doing a nice job right now and Chris Johnson is a big part of that. The ten guys in front of him are creating big holes for him. Chris is hitting the seams and holes and it is an entire group effort.

"Injury-wise, Marcus Hands is still out with a shoulder injury. I am concerned about Jeremy Chambliss, Pierre Bell and Quentin Cotton. They will not be able to practice this week and are all questionable for this weekend. It throws a wrench into your defense when you take your two top linebackers and top backup out of the mix. Offensively, Josh Coffman is still out and we will play the wait and see game with Jonathan Williams and Willie Barton. Barton is more probable at this point.

"I can't say enough positive things about Chris Johnson. He is really becoming a complete player. It has been nice seeing him develop as a player and a person. He has gained weight and confidence. Everything is starting to slow down for him and he is making cuts that he hasn't made in the past. We have talked about some things such as seeing the flow of the secondary, not just the defensive line. It was nice to see Rob Kass back. He has been patiently waiting for his opportunity and has done a good job with it. He has earned a lot of respect with the way he has handled adversity. He threw the ball better in the second half. Our offensive line continues to develop and I thought they played really well against a good defensive front Saturday. Sean Allen probably played his best game and Doug Palmer also played well. Fred Hicks and Stephen Heis both had good games at center and Matt Butler continues to shine at left guard. Stanley Bryant had his first start and I was impressed with the way he played, coming in as a walk-on tight end. Jamar Bryant continues to get better as well as our entire receiving corps. Davon Drew is rapidly improving not only as a receiving tight end but also as a blocking tight end.

"Our defensive line did not have one of its better games. Zack Slate continues to show up as the energizing force. It was great to see Khalif Mitchell finally played an entire game healthy. I thought he was making some things happen out there. At the linebacker position, it was probably one of the worst games we have played since I have been here. We are trying to get that figured out right now through evaluating film and talking to players. After having Bell switch positions and do well last week, I don't know if he was just confused this week with some of the things UCF did but that might be due to his injury. We didn't have the productivity that we needed because of UCF's running game. Our secondary played one of its best games so far. Dekota marshall and Travis Simmons stepped in as freshmen and really played well. Travis's interception after the blocked punt was one of the changing points in the game. Leon Best keeps getting better and his move from safety to corner has been positive.

"I don't think our punting game was particularly strong. Matt [Dodge] is capable of much better than what he did Saturday. I understand that not every punt will go 60 yards but we need to get more consistency out of him. Hopefully that will come with experience and just getting more reps on gameday. I thought Ben Hartman did a nice job of kicking the ball. It's unfortunate that we had the procedure penalty on his second field goal."

"This is going to be a heck of a challenge. UTEP has won three-straight and is playing on a high right now. They are scoring a large amount of points with 52, 48 and 48 in their last three games, the last two being against SMU and Tulsa. Their defense is also very athletic. Statistically, they are balanced on offense, averaging 190 yards on the ground and 230 throwing the ball. They have really come into their own as an offensive football team. They are extremely productive in the red zone, about 91 percent successful.

"I think they went through some changes two weeks ago and have five starters on defense out right now, including three defensive linemen and their top corner. They want to make every game a track meet. They don't want to play protective football but want to start scoring points right off of the bus. However, their defense does have nine interceptions on the year. They have given up some yards but have made the stops when they have had to. Their special teams feature some great returners as their free safety is averaging 12 yards on punt returns. That is scary for us with the way our punt and kick coverage teams are playing right now. They not only pose problems on film but also with the travel required to just get there. We have had a physically and emotionally tough six weeks and traveling will take that much more out of us as we go all the way to UTEP.

On Keeping Up With UTEP's High-Scoring Offense:
"When you play a really good offensive football team, you don't necessarily go out trying to stop them as much as try to keep them off the field. We have to control the ball offensively and put up some points early. I said that we are not a complete football team but a big play team. When you look back at our scores at Houston, we hit a long ball with T.J. Lee and Chris Johnson had a big run as well as Jamar Bryant catching a long pass on the sideline. We need to grow up in a hurry and make some first downs while getting rid of the self-inflicted wounds like penalties that kill drives."

On Todd Fitch And What He Brings To ECU:
"Todd and I have coached together for 11 years. When I first hired Coach Fitch at Connecticut, Earl Bruce called me and said he will be the best recruiter and coach you have had. He connects well with the players and is well-liked and hard-working. He has a great football mind and has done a great job with our quarterbacks. He is very even-keeled and does not go on an emotional roller coaster, much like Mark Richt down at Georgia. That filters down to the quarterbacks as they are playing very stable and steady football. I trust Todd and he was the one I wanted when I was putting my staff together. I tried to hire him at the time but he was going through a battle with cancer and felt that it was not the right time for him to leave his doctors. When we lost Donnie Jankowski, I saw the opportunity to bring in a guy that can best help this football team and Todd has done that. He has given me more of a chance to be a head coach because he has taken over many of the offensive duties. He is a very humble person with no hidden agendas and he is doing fabulous job with where we are right now. Having had some curveballs thrown at us at the beginning of the season with the quarterback situation, Todd has done a nice job of getting the players to respond positively."

On the Offense's Progression So Far This Season:
"We really didn't have an identity offensively at the beginning of the season. It was like a land of misfit toys. There were a lot of questions to be answered but we have stayed the course and gotten better fundamentally. I think the offense is beginning to gain confidence not only because we scored 52 points Saturday but because we are seeing that doing the fundamental things correctly actually works. All of our offensive coaches deserve a lot of credit for our progress. Where we were six weeks ago and where we are now is not even close. They are beginning to see the fruits of their labor with all the work they have put into getting better."

On UTEP's Balanced Offense:
"They make you spread the field and do some good things in space. They are like Houston in that their tailback can make you miss in one-on-one situations. They don't go 80 yards out of the toss sweep but they put you in space and the tailback turns you around. They are so good because they are athletic at wide receiver as they are all over six feet tall. Their quarterback can beat you with his feet and his arm so you can't focus on just the run or just the pass."

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